Edward John Eyre - Vol 2 - Ch 3

Heavy Road — A Young Kangaroo Shot — Grassy Country — Point Malcolm — Traces of Its Having Been Visited by Europeans — Grass Trees Met with — A Kangaroo Killed — Catch Fish — Get Another Kangaroo — Crab Hunting — Renew the Journey — Casuarinae Met with — Cross the Level Bank — Low Country Behind It — Cape Arid — Salt Water Creek — Xamia Seen — Cabbage Tree of the Sound — Fresh Water Lake — More Salt Streams — Opossums Caught — Flag Reeds Found — Fresh Water Streams — Boats Seen — Meet with a Whaler.

May 28

May 28. — In the latter part of the night the rain set in moderately, but steadily, and both Wylie and myself were very wet and miserable. The morning still continued showery, and I was anxious to have remained in camp for the sake of the horses; but as we had consumed at breakfast the last of our kangaroo, it became necessary to find some means of renewing our resources, or else lose no time in making the best of our way onwards. Having sent Wylie to try and get crabs, I went out with the rifle, but could see nothing to shoot; and upon returning to the camp, I found Wylie had been equally unsuccessful among the rocks, the sea being too rough; there was no alternative, therefore, but to move on, and having got up the horses, we proceeded behind Cape Arid for ten miles, at a course of W. 15 degrees N., and encamped at night amid a clump of tea-trees, and bastard gums, where we got good grass for our horses, but no water. The day had been intensely cold, and I could not persuade Wylie to ride at all. At night we had abundance of firewood, and a few of the long narrow yams were also found at this encampment, the first vegetable food we had yet procured. Grass trees had been abundant on our line of route to-day, and for the first time we met with the Xamia. In the evening, the kangaroo fly (a small brown fly) became very troublesome, annoying us in great numbers, and warning us that rain was about to fall. At night it came in frequent though moderate showers. We got very much wetted, but our fire was good, and we did not suffer so much from the cold as the damp, which affected me with cramp in the limbs, and rheumatism.

May 27

The morning of the 27th was exceedingly cold; and as we left our encampments early, neither I nor Wylie were inclined to ride for the first few miles; it was as much as we could do to keep ourselves from shivering whilst walking; the dews were so heavy, that we were soon wet through by the spangles from the shrubs and grass, whilst the pace at which we travelled was not sufficiently rapid to promote a quick circulation, and enable us to keep ourselves warm.

At six miles we passed some sand hills, where there was every indication of water, but I did not think it worth while delaying to try the experiment in digging, and pushed on for four miles further, round a bight of the coast, encamping on the east side of Cape Arid, where a small salt water creek entered the bight. The mouth of this was closed by a bar of sand, quite dry; nor did the salt water continue for any great distance inland. Following it up, in the hope of finding fresh water near its source, I found that there was none now, but that after rains considerable streams must be poured into it from the gorges of Cape Arid. The rocks here were all of granite; and in some of the ledges we were fortunate enough to find abundance of water deposited by the rains, at which we watered our horses. This being the first time we had ever been able to do so on our whole journey without making use of the spade and bucket. After putting the horses out upon the best grass we could find, Wylie and I went to try our luck at fishing; the sea was boisterous, and we caught none; but in returning, got about eight or nine crabs a-piece, which, with some of the kangaroo that was still left, enabled us to make our fare out tolerably.

May 26

May 26. — Up early, and Wylie, who had been eating the whole night, was so thirsty, that he actually walked all the way through the dew and cold of the morning to the water to drink, as I could only afford him one pint out of the kegs. We had now been in camp six clear days, at this most favourable position; we had got an abundant and wholesome supply of provisions for ourselves, and had been enabled to allow our horses to enjoy a long unbroken interval of rest, amidst the best of pasturage, and where there was excellent water. Now that we were again going to continue our route, I found that the horses were so much improved in appearance and in strength, that I thought we might once again venture, without oppression to the animals, occasionally to ride; I selected therefore, the strongest from among them for this purpose, and Wylie and myself walked and rode alternately; after passing the scrubby sand-ridges, and descending to the open downs behind them, I steered direct for Cape Arid, cutting off Cape Pasley, and encamping after a stage of eighteen miles, where it bore south-east of us. We halted for the night upon a ridge timbered with casuarinae, and abounding in grass. Once more we were in a country where trees were found, and again we were able at night to make our fires of large logs, which did not incessantly require renewing to prevent their going out. We had now crossed the level bank which had so long shut out the interior from us; gradually it had declined in elevation, until at last it had merged in the surrounding country, and we hardly knew where it commenced, or how it ended. The high bluff and craggy hills, whose tops we had formerly seen, stood out now in bold relief, with a low level tract of country stretching to their base, covered with dwarf brush, heathy plants and grass-tree, with many intervals of open grassy land, and abounding in kangaroos. I named these lofty and abrupt mountain masses the “Russell Range,” after the Right Honourable the Secretary of State for the Colonies — Lord John Russell. They constitute the first great break in the character and appearance of the country for many hundreds of miles, and they offer a point of great interest, from which future researches may hereafter be made towards the interior. Nearer to the coast, and on either side of Cape Pasley were sand-drifts, in which I have no doubt that water might have been procured. We found none where we were encamped, but had sufficient in the kegs for our own use, and the horses were not thirsty; many and recent tracks of natives were observed, but the people themselves were not seen.

May 25

On the 25th we still remained in camp to take advantage of the abundant supply of food we had for ourselves, and by giving the horses a long rest, enable them also to recruit a little upon the excellent grass which grew in this neighbourhood. Wylie took the rifle out to try to get another kangaroo, but did not succeed. I remained at home to mend my boots, and prepare for advancing again to-morrow. In the afternoon we filled our kegs, and brought away the bucket and spade from the sand-hills, that we might be ready to move without going again to the water. For the first time since we left Fowler’s Bay we were troubled with musquitoes.

May 24

May 24. — Leaving Wylie to continue his feast and attend to the horses, I went down to the beach to hunt again for crabs, of which I procured about three dozen, but still of the same small size as before; a few larger ones were seen in the deeper clefts of the rocks, but I could not get at them; indeed, as it was, I was very nearly terminating my crab hunting and expedition at the same time. The places where these animals were obtained, were the clefts and holes among large masses and sheets of rock close to the sea, and which were covered by it at high water; many of these were like platforms, shelving to the sea, and terminating abruptly in deep water. Whilst busily engaged upon one of them, in trying to get some crabs out from its clefts, I did not notice that the surf sometimes washed over where I stood, until whilst stooping, and in the act of fishing out a crab, a roller came further than usual and dashing over me, threw me down and took both me and my crabs to some distance, nearly carrying us down the steep into the sea, from which nothing could have rescued me, as I should soon have been dashed to pieces by the breakers against the rocks. Having gathered up the crabs I had collected, I set off homewards in a sad cold uncomfortable plight, with the skin scraped off my hands and one of my heels, and with my shoes in such a state from scrambling about among the rocks and in the wet, as strongly to indicate to me the propriety of never attempting to go crab hunting again with my shoes on, unless I wished to be placed altogether “hors du combat” for walking. Wylie I found had got up the horses and watered them, and had brought up a supply of water for the camp, so that we had nothing to do in the afternoon but boil crabs and eat them, at which occupation I found him wonderfully more skilful than I was, readily getting through two to my one.